Today, Book End Babes is proud to have Buzz Books’ own Jenny Peterson talking about YA Fantasy.
Real talk: Young adult fantasy and science fiction is dominating right now. Women are talking Divergent and its sequels over happy hour, and guys are Googling old-school arcades after ripping through Ready Player One. Okay, I am totally doing both of those things. And I’m not alone. The YA domination is clear simply when you check out what’s opening at your local theater. Ender’s Game at the beginning of November and Catching Fire at the end.
You see them on the bestseller lists, you see them clutched in the hands of fevered readers. But knowing where to dip your toe into the fire-breathing, fairy-loving world of YA fantasy and science fiction can be daunting. That’s where I come in. Here are some of my go-to books to introduce (indoctrinate?) new readers to my favorite genre.
- The Raven Cycle—Blue is 100 percent not psychic. Which can be kind of hard when you grow up in a house full of them. On the other side of town, a quartet of Aglionby private school boys are in search of a mythical Welsh king said to be sleeping along a ley line. The two worlds spin into one orbit, where secrets and all the sorts of lies we tell knit Blue and her Raven Boys together. I adored Maggie Stiefvater’s first entry into the four-book Raven Cycle, The Raven Boys. Her writing is lovely, and the story is at once electric and languid. The sequel The Dream Thieves just released, so jump into this series now.
- The Abhorsen trilogy—Cross the wall into a high fantasy world, where the dead walk and a cat talks. Garth Nix’s trilogy—Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen—is a gorgeous, unique fantasy. In this world, a special necromancer can travel into death and subdue the dead creatures that crawl back into life through music. Don’t worry though; there’s still a fair bit of swordfights and action. All this happens north of a massive wall, though the people to the south (which is quite a bit like World War I Britain) like to pretend nothing of the sort is going on. The trilogy is complete, but Nix is planning to add at least one more book in the future.
- The Gemma Doyle trilogy—A Gothic boarding school, Victorian London, girls with suitors. And, oh yeah, a dark fantasy world where the powerless teens can make every desire come true. Main character—and one of my literary crushes—Gemma has visions that become reality and a mysterious boy following her every move. It all makes for a rich, complex trilogy from author Libba Bray that isn’t afraid to poke into every dark corner it can find. The trilogy—A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet, Far Thing—is complete, but I can almost guarantee you’ll finish this and run straight for Bray’s latest historical fantasy, The Diviners.
- The Monstrumologist series—Who’s ready to lose their lunch? Because seriously, Rick Yancey’s Monstrumologist series revels in the Capital G Gross. Yet at the same time, it’s lush, elegant, and tender. This isn’t a “shock-for-shock’s sake” sort of series, but one that earns its stomach-turning moments. It’s the late 1800s, and main character Will is the young assistant to a monstrumologist, a scientist who happens to study that which many find fantastical. The series follows Will’s adventures at the side of prickly, caustic Dr. Warthrop. While Will faces all kinds of mythical threats, Yancey isn’t afraid to show us some of the most terrible dangers are completely human.
- Harry Potter series—Yeah, you didn’t think I’d compile a YA fantasy list and leave out J.K. Rowling’s juggernaut, did you? For more than a decade, Harry Potter was inescapable, and I can understand how that could be off-putting to people who hate joy and kittens. But if you’ve still not read this series, know this: The hype was there for a reason. Morality, loyalty, bravery—the series explored the best and worst of humanity through the trials of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. And it did so with comedy, action, and genuine heartbreak. Don’t use the excuse, “Oh, I’ll read it to my kids someday.” Read it for yourself. You’ll thank me.
Jenny is a writer and editor based in Denver, CO. Reading and writing YA is her first love, and she spends an inordinate amount of time dreaming up fantastical worlds for kick-ass heroines. Jenny also splits her time as an assistant editor for Month9Books, a YA publisher. Creature Discomforts, her YA fantasy e-novella, is the first in The Descendants trilogy being released by indie publisher Buzz Books USA.
When not writing or editing, Jenny enjoys exploring the mountains and lakes of Colorado, shopping local, dominating at trivia and traveling. She lives in an old Victorian house with her husband and two lazy tabbies named after Harry Potter characters.